Eagles cope with injuries

Published 12:00 pm Monday, September 12, 2011

DECATUR — Four weeks into its season, Porters Chapel’s depth chart has become the walking wounded.

The Eagles (3-1, 1-1 District 4-A) lost a tough 32-20 decision last Friday at Newton Academy.

In week three at Ben’s Ford Academy, the Eagles lost one player, middle linebacker Rich Murphy, for the season with a knee injury. Two others, center Sam Staggs and fullback/tackle Josh Masterson, suffered injuries that now appear to be more serious than previously thought. Staggs hurt his knee and Masterson has a shoulder issue. Both might be out up to six weeks, rather than an optimistic assesment of two to three weeks.

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Then at Newton County Academy, wide receiver/cornerback Peter Harris slammed into Newton’s Zack Meeks on a 2-point conversion run and stayed down on the turf with a neck stinger. He was transported to Rush Medical Center in Meridian. Harris was going to be a big part of coach Wade Patrick’s plan as he wanted to use a three-man combination of running backs out of the I-formation with Harris, Kawayne Gaston and new transfer Alton Burdene.

Trailing 8-0, Patrick had to go to a one-back shotgun set with Gaston lined up beside quarterback Jonah Masterson. Patrick went to the air with his sophomore quarterback and Masterson hit his first 12 passes. He completed 17 of 22 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.

“We moved the ball well on offense,” Patrick said. “We were just so undermanned after the injuries last week and then to lose Peter, who was going to be a big part of our plan. Then, add to that, one of our linemen gets sick before the game, so we have to move an 8th-grader up, Bryce Fleming.”

The switching around of bodies led to problems on defense. The Generals had eight plays of 35 yards or more. One was the opening kickoff that Dillon Williams ran back 80 yards for a touchdown. Williams added TD runs of 58 and 71 yards later.

Both followed right after scores by the Eagles.

There were also two long pass plays of 40 and 36 yards from Williams. Two other backs combined for runs of 32, 35 and 45 yards. In all, PCA gave up 280 yards on the ground and 76 passing.

“You just had to come and expect we would have problems trying to stop them,” Patrick said. “They are good and we had kids trying to learn how to play at defensive end and a new middle linebacker.”

The Generals also changed up their offense once they saw PCA go to a 3-3-5 alignment.

“We went to the Wing-T to catch them off balance,” Generals coach Robert Roberts said. “They still played tough.”

The Eagles got a big lift from Burdene, a senior, who came to the team from Warren Central. He caught nine passes for 88 yards and also played several snaps at linebacker while battling leg cramps.

“He made things happen for us,” Patrick said.

Burdene said he was glad to get some playing action.

“I wanted to play sports and this (PCA) was a better place for me,” Burdene said. “It was hard to see Peter get hurt, because he’s my cousin and the reason why I came here. I knew I had to go make plays once he left. We just have to keep fighting through this.”